A group of Omanu surf lifesavers are trading salt-drenched speedos for river rash-shirts as they eye a 350 kilometre fundraising paddle next month.
Kirsten Wilton, Ross Parker and Brent Bourgeois - along with local adventurer Wayne Roberts - will guide standup paddle boards down the length of the Waikato River, to support 10-year-old clubmate Harrison Mundy.
Harrison is currently being treated for Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer and needs regular doses of chemotherapy and treatment in Auckland's Starship Hospital.
The June diagnosis was a life-changer for his parents, Mount Maunganui school teacher Allan, and Hayley, who has had to take leave from her job at House of Travel Papamoa.
Allan Mundy is a stalwart member of the Omanu surf club and Wilton, who owns paddle board company Liquid Stixx, didn't need to think twice when Roberts came up with the Waikato River idea.
"Allan has been an incredible contributor, not just to Omanu but also to the wider surf lifesaving movement," Wilton said. "Harrison is such a neat kid and it seemed appropriate when he is going through a pretty tough journey that we should make one of our own to support him."
The paddle boarders have been training hard for the trip, with Bourgeois recently completing the first paddle board circumnavigation of Matakana Island (58 kilometres over eight hours) and Parker spending at least three hours each day on the water. Wilton even had a dream training trip with a client recently, traveling six kilometres up Tauranga Harbour accompanied by a pod of orca.
The team will set off from Taupo early in December and the trip is likely to take them at least four days.
"Obviously there are a couple of sections we'll portage around, although Huka Falls on a standup board does sound pretty exciting!" Wilton laughed.
Harrison met the team at Omanu Beach last week, just before his next round of chemotherapy, and joked he was a little bit jealous about the planned trip.
"I can't wait to get back into the water," he smiled. "I really miss the waves and hanging out at the beach with my friends."
To donate to Harrison's Journey and to follow the Waikato River paddle boarding adventure, see www.laketoportsup.org.nz
For more information, contact Kirsten Wilton on 027 243 3011.
Article and photo by Jamie Troughton/Dsrcibe Media Services. To view more images, click here.